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Press Release: WildEarth Guardians Sues for Information on Captured Mexican Wolf

Group Questions Incarceration of the Fox Mountain Loba, November 21, 2012 (posted 11/24/12)

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Press Contact: Wendy Keefover (505) 819-5925 (for members of the media only)

Santa Fe, NM – WildEarth Guardians sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week for its failure to produce any public records related to its order to trap and incarcerate the Mexican wolf mother of the Fox Mountain pack, AF1188 (also known as “Loba” by her fans), for her alleged role in killing livestock. The agency failed to produce even a “partial response” to the organization’s records request, despite its continued promises and Guardians’ repeated appeals for time-sensitive records.

“Something stinks here and it’s not dead cattle,” said Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection Program for WildEarth Guardians.
Guardians had also requested records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services that concern the captured wolf. That agency produced 900 pages of documents, but covered over nearly 700 pages with black and green ink. Guardians administratively protested Wildlife Services’ heavily redacted response.

The two agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service (the wildlife-conservation arm of the federal government) and USDA-Wildlife Services (the wildlife-killing branch of the federal government), worked in tandem on the Fox Mountain wolf pack matter. Wildlife Services, in the few readable records it produced, reported that Mexican wolves had killed six cattle in the territory maintained by the Fox Mountain pack, but the necropsy evidence was inconclusive, according to at least one expert.

Carter Niemeyer, author of Wolfer: A Memoir and former Wildlife Services’ agent, reviewed Wildlife Services’ necropsy records and reported to Guardians that he was “skeptical of many of the conclusions presented” because the evidence was vague and lacked clear photographic evidence. He said, “If we can put people on the moon and do Mars landings, livestock damage investigations should be easily provided to the public with clear explanations and photos to support agency management decisions. This, as they say, is not rocket science.”

In one instance attributed to the Fox Mountain pack, records showed that rains had obliterated all but coyote tracks around the cow carcass, and in two other incidents, the carcasses were found either in a completely dried-out state or in “advanced decomposition.”

“I find it questionable that decomposed carcasses 24-36 hours old would reveal much evidence concerning the cause of death,” Neimeyer emphasized, adding: “Carcasses older than that would be even more difficult to determine, unless the investigator had an advanced degree in forensic science or took the carcass to someone who had such training.”
Ranchers’ complaints about livestock losses to wolves far outnumber actual wolf-associated mortality. In Idaho, for example, livestock growers complained that they lost 2,561 cattle to wolves in 2011, but the Fish and Wildlife Service could verify only 75 cattle lost to wolves, a whopping 3,415 percent difference.

Given the struggles of the Mexican wolf program recovery program, the Fish and Wildlife Service should do all that it can to conserve endangered Mexican wolves, and particularly breeding females with dependent pups. Instead, it has accepted unsophisticated forensic evidence to remove one of only six breeding females from the wild.

“We have yet to see proof that Loba actually killed livestock, and none appears to be forthcoming. And even if she had killed a cow, she should be restored to the wild with her family because every Mexican wolf absolutely counts,” said Keefover.

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View the Complaint Filed by WildEarth Guardians
http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/FWS_Loba_Lawsuit_Complaint_11.14.12.pdf

See the Video of Wildlife Services’ Responsive Records
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-APNrmt1iiU

See Wildlife Services’ Sketchy Necropsy Reports
http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/Depredation_Report_Form_June_2011.pdf

Background
On August 8, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a kill order for the alpha female of the Fox Mountain Mexican wolf pack for allegedly killing livestock. She had five pups, including four young of the year, one yearling pup, and her lifelong mate, who is also her first cousin.

Immediately following announcement of the Service’s decision to kill “Loba,” hundreds, if not thousands of people called the Service, the White House, and the New Mexico Congressional delegation. As a result of the public outcry, the Service rescinded the kill order two days later, but then ordered that Loba be captured live.

She eluded federal trappers for two months but, was finally caught on October 10, 2012, by Wildlife Services. She was held in a federal facility to monitor her health. She will be or has been moved to the Southwest Wolf Conservation Center, which volunteered to house her.

On October 13, WildEarth Guardians submitted public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act to both the Fish and Wildlife Service and Wildlife Services for documents related to the Fox Mountain wolf pack.

Documents received from USDA-Wildlife Services October indicate that the Fox Mountain pack was involved in killing six cattle, although the details linking the livestock deaths to wolf predation are sketchy.

1. Heavy rains had obliterated out tracks and only tracks found were from coyotes. But bite marks found were “consistent with Mexican grey wolf” and radio telemetry indicated that AF1188 was “in the area.” Dead for 24 to 36 hours. (08/01/12; p. 50)

2. Rancher saw large canine in meadow. No telemetry at the site but flight on Monday showed Fox Mountain [pack/wolf?] in area. Cow was 47 hours dead. (06/16/11; p. 52)

3. Wolf track located in the area. Carcass skinned and found “canine marks with corresponding hemorrhage on the throat and neck areas and also on the left and right hind legs. The canine marks were measured and found consistent with Mexican Gray Wolf predation and the incident was confirmed.” Telemetry of Fox Mountain pack in the area the previous day. 24 hours dead. (4/26/12; p. 59)

4. Carcass of 5-year-old cow found at the edge of a dirt (water) tank. Wildlife Services found “multiple wolf tracks in the area and suggest that the cow was pursued into the water and was killed there. . .  hemorrhage was located around the soft tissue areas in the back end of the how; however no canine marks could be paired up in this area due to consumption of the tissue. Several canine marks were located on the hind legs . . . measuring 36.6mm other canine marks were located on the back of the carcass measuring 44.9mm and 36.9mm all with corresponding hemorrhage. 12 hours dead. (3/127/12; p. 62)

5. Dead calf found in a creek. It was in an “advanced state of decomposition” and Wildlife Services moved the body to a hilltop to use the wind to blow away the stench. “Bite marks were located on the left hock with corresponding hemorrhage measuring 40.1mm . . . ” Three days dead. (07/05/11; p. 65)

6. Wildlife Services’ agent found “coyote tracks and nothing more” near the carcass. The remains were “dried out” but Wildlife Services found a hemorrhage on a portion of the hide and took the part and soaked it for 48 hours to “confirm that the staining was indeed hemorrhage and not lividity.” Four weeks dead. (05/01/12; p. 56)
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Please take Action on Behalf of the Fox Mountain Pack! Click here to add your name to a letter urging New Mexico leaders to investigate the Fox Mountain Loba's capture.